Wall Street swindler Madoff sent to prison for life
AP file photo
Throw away the key!
Bernard Madoff, the Wall Street scam artist who stole billions in historys largest Ponzi scheme, will spend the rest of his life in prison, after a judge Monday handed him a whopping 150-year sentence.
The message must be sent that Mr. Madoffs crimes were extraordinarily evil, said Judge Denny Chin, who slapped Madoff, 71, with the maximum term. The fraud here is unprecedented.The packed courtroom in lower Manhattan broke into cheers as Chin delivered the sentence, an emotional release after a wrenching hour-and-a-half long hearing that featured a parade of tearful victims who described losing their lifes savings.
I only hope his prison sentence is long enough that his jail cell becomes his coffin, Michael Schwartz, 33, told Chin before the sentencing.
Schwartz got his wish, as did hundreds of others.
Mr. Madoff is sentenced to life, as his victims are sentenced to life, said Maureen Ebel, 61, a widow who lost everything and is now working three jobs. I have been pushed into the great black abyss.
Madoff, who wore a dark suit, his hands unshackled, displayed virtually no emotion, even as the judge announced his fate. He returned to his Manhattan jail cell, where he has been held for the past three months.
Before his punishment was handed down, Madoff expressed regret for his crimes and turned around to face the victims in the courtroom, telling them: Im sorry. I know thats not enough.
I live in a tormented state now, he added. Ive left a legacy of shame for my children and grandchildren.
His attorney, Ira Sorkin, called him a deeply flawed individual and asked for a sentence of 12 years, which he said was just short of Madoffs life expectancy.
Chin rejected that argument, saying the scope of the fraud and the impact on the victims demanded the maximum.
The judge added that in the more than 100 letters he received, not one attested to Madoffs good deeds. The absence of such support is telling, Chin said.
Madoff has been ordered stripped of his assets, including his $7 million Upper East Side apartment, properties around the world and two yachts. His wife of 50 years, Ruth, who was left with $2.5 million, broke her silence Monday.
I am embarrassed and ashamed, she said in a statement released by her lawyer. Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused.
Madoff, a once-admired investor and former chairman of the NASDAQ, admitted in March to running a multi-billion dollar pyramid scheme since the early 1990s. In an elaborate and decades long fraud, Madoff pocketed money from investors who ranged from celebrities and charities to retirees and single moms and sent them fictitious account statements showing stock sales and purchases that were never made.
Many victims doubt he could have pulled it off alone and called yesterday on the government to bring to justice anyone else who was involved. Aside from Madoffs accountant, no one else has been charged.
A couple of dozen of the angry victims gathered at nearby Foley Square after the sentencing yesterday to call on authorities to take more action and to provide them with restitution.
The last statements Madoff sent to investors totaled $65 million, but investigators believe true losses will run from $13 billion to $21 billion.
Whatever vindication ripped-off investors felt, they said it was tempered by the struggle of making ends meet and the suddenly uncertain financial future he left them.
I keep thinking that Im going to wake up from it but it keeps getting worse, said Sharon Lissauer, as she choked back tears. He killed my spirit and shattered my dreams.